Thursday, October 11, 2007

Back to the Kitchen

Weight has never been an issue for me. The only time I’ve ever been significantly larger than I am now (and I’ve been this size give or take 10 pounds since high school) was one summer during college that I spent in Nantucket. We didn’t have a car so we biked or walked everywhere, which would lead one to believe I would be the thinnest I ever was. I wasn’t. I was fit and fairly lean, but I packed on the pounds. I ate Ben & Jerry’s every afternoon, and washed it down with beer in the evening. Upon arriving back at the apartment in a drunken haze at night, I would make myself toast from locally made bread slathered with jam and butter. It was fantastic. And by August, I was the largest I’ve ever been. The pictures don’t really show it, but the clothes I wore were all 3 sizes larger than the ones I wore at the beginning of the summer. And still, by American standards, I was average – even trim. For reference, size 12 Gap pants fit. Snugly.

I was, for me, huge and a size 12. The irony is that today, because of all of the additives, high fructose corn syrup and cheap fast food, this is average for America. I’d even venture to say on the small side. Two-thirds of America is over weight. Recently, I saw photos of the rural poor in the United States. The thing that most struck me was the roundness of people’s faces. The soft double-chin that the husband and wife shared. The plumpness of their child. These photos contrasted dramatically in my mind with the ones Dorthea Lange took in the 30s. Her subjects had thin chests. Gaunt faces.

As recently as the 1970s, poverty was marked by thinness. Bones jutting out. Pronounced chins. Belts tightening the waists of too-large pants. Poverty today is plump. It’s fat. It’s filled with corn and corn by-products that people unknowingly eat all day. The meat we eat is fed corn even though cows can’t digest corn unless it is altered for their systems. All of the soft drinks we drink are filled with corn syrup. Ketchup, cereal, crackers. It’s hard to find a pre-made food that doesn’t have a corn derivative in it. Xanthum gum? Made from corn. And all of this corn and food processing are making people fat. It’s cheap now, but at what cost later?

I read books and articles on this plight, and no one has a solution that seems like it will work. The problem is that we are all used to the ease with which we obtain a completed meal. Changing our diets as a country means changing the way we live.

Recently, I decided that I needed to cook dinner every night except Friday and Saturday when we tend to go out. It is hard. I am exhausted from work, and usually just want to watch television with a bowl of cereal. The other night, I arrived home with a menu in mind. I turned on some music and started cooking. Twenty minutes later, when the tacos hit the table, I was relaxed, happy and hungry. My husband and I happily ate the healthy version of Mexican. We talked. We connected. I felt nourished.

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